Kayak minister reunited with rescuer
Published on 26 June, 2017
A Church minister who nearly drowned at sea has been reunited with the brave man who saved his life.
Rev Dr Rory MacLeod, who leads the Strath and Sleat congregations on Skye, said he was very grateful to David Campbell, 63, for coming to his rescue after his kayak capsized in a sudden storm.
The former Royal Marine chaplain, 52, was unconscious in the choppy water close to the village of Kylerhea when the retired engineer waded out more than 650ft and pulled him back to the shore.
Dr MacLeod, who holds a 4-star certificate in Sea Kayaking, was attended to at the scene by the RNLI then airlifted by air ambulance to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment for hypothermia and exhaustion.
Mr Campbell of Kylerhea said he was pleased he was able to help the minister, who made a full recovery, adding that he hoped that he had “made a friend for life”.
He revealed that the pair, who have visited each other’s houses, had even discussed the possibility of going kayaking together in the future.
Dr MacLeod, who is married to Annice and recently took up the sport again after a 12 year break, said the sea conditions around the Kyleakin peninsula on June 12 changed rapidly.
He said very strong currents mixed with a wind that suddenly veered west to south-west caused a funnel effect and churned up the water.
Dr MacLeod said: “Although I was unconscious when David rescued me, my gratitude is sharpened by the awareness of having lost a great uncle in similar circumstances off the coast of Islay, when he went in to help a swimmer who had got into difficulty.
“Though a strong swimmer himself, both he and the victim were swept out to sea and drowned.
“So I left David in no doubt that his heroic action was not taken for granted.
“Whatever else he might have achieved during his life, he can enjoy knowing that he gave a wife back her husband and restored a father to their children.”
When Dr MacLeod was initially tipped out of his kayak, a fishing boat came up alongside him and offered to take him to Kyleakin but he settled for a tow towards the shore at Kylerhea.
But he revealed that swim in was harder than he had expected and he blacked out before reaching the shore.
Mr Campbell, who used to work at the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre in Kyle of Lochalsh, said the water in the bay was very shallow.
He said: “I watched Rory through binoculars swimming for the best part of 30 minutes and he was not getting much nearer to the beach.
“So I thought I better go and give him a hand to pull the kayak in.
“I put on a short sleeved wetsuit and grabbed a 20-metre rope and waded out.
“I was in the water up to my neck and standing on the bottom.”
Mr Campbell said he swam out to Dr MacLeod, who was unconscious by this stage, and tied the rope to his buoyancy aid and started pulling him back to shore.
He revealed that the rope got snagged on something and he was forced to “frantically” swim with one arm while pulling the minister and his kayak with the other.
Mr Campbell said he was pleased to be able to help Dr MacLeod but modestly played down his role.
“It was nice to see him at home with his wife and I am glad of the opportunity to be able to help him,” he added.
“I would like to think I have made a friend for life and we have spoken about going kayaking together sometime.
“It is a sport I have taken up recently so that would nice.”
Mr Campbell stored the kayak in his garden until the minister could collect it.
He walked Dr MacLeod over the ground and showed him some video footage featuring the lifeboat and air ambulance.
The minister said he would like to acknowledge the "alacrity, generosity and heroism" of those who came to his rescue.
"Neil Robertson and his crew who towed me towards the shore, having offered to take me all the way to Kyleakin," he added.
"Locals and members of the Kyle RNLI and Stornaway air ambulance who treated me at the scene.
"Andrew, Iain, Sheila and colleagues who stabilised me at Raigmore and - of course - my gorgeous wife who drove 95 extra miles to collect me and another 95 to get me home".